I am so excited that I finally get a chance to share a lesson on opinion writing with you with the graphic organizers that I use in the classroom. This last year was a big change for me. My district adopted a new reading series, and I spent part of the year working with the series' writing program to see if I liked it better that what I already did. I was able to post a lot of my expository writing on the Better Lesson site, and just wish I had more time to post some whole units on opinion writing. I hope you'll be able to take what I've shown you today and apply it to other opinion pieces you may do in your classroom.
Today we are going to be reading a mentor text from KidsDiscover. Here is the article: KIDS DISCOVER EARTH DAY PACKET(1).pdf - you will need to make enough copies for each of your students. The students will be doing some problem solving today as they determine for themselves what the three most important ways to help save the Earth are. Students will have to think about the choices from the text and weigh the ideas against each other, determining which are the most important. They will take these ideas and have to identify what the main idea and the important details are. When we do this we are going to address standards RI1.1 and RI1.2. Students will record the main ideas and details on their tree maps to categorize their thoughts. Then they will use this information to write an opinion piece about what they think the 3 most important ways to help the Earth are. This addresses standard W1.1.
There are many components to prepare for this lesson. If you'd like to to read the mentor text off the Smartboard you will need the Smartboard Helping Our Earth.notebook or Activboard Helping Our Earth.flipchart lesson. If you'd like to model the writing process for your students you might want to download this Smartboard Opinion Writing - How Best to Save the Earth Example.notebook or Activboard Opinion Writing - How Best to Save the Earth.flipchart lesson. You will also want to make copies of the Tree Map 3 Branched Tree Map.pdf and the Flow Map Flow Map Writing Paper Ways to Save the Earth.pdf for each of your students. You will also want to make enough copies of the Journal Paper for each student in your class.
I really wanted to make sure I was crystal clear with the whole writing lesson today. I made this video Overview of the Writing Lesson.mp4 that gives you the overview of the lesson so you will know exactly what to do with your class.
Every student in my class had a packet of the text. I also had a copy but I pulled up the text on the Smartboard. We read through the text together. We took a while to get through the text because I would stop and elaborate on different concepts to make sure my students understood what we are reading. I elaborated on what a "worm bin" was and what "compost" was, telling the students that compost was very good for the soil, that they could put their food waste into the worm bin, and that these things help us make sure there would be less waste in the landfill.
When I read the fact about how it takes 1,500 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans, we were amazed, and I really pointed out that fact about how we could save water by buying our jeans at a resale shop or wearing hand-me-downs.
We also incorporated the other knowledge we had learned about from the other lessons in our story about saving water and planting trees. By the time we were done with the text, my students had a good understanding of all the ways they could help save the Earth. Now they had to pick what they thought were the most important ways.
I helped them write on the top line of the tree map. I said, "What is our opinion piece going to be about? That's right - ways to help save the Earth. Let's write that on the top line." Then I told the students that their job was to go back into the text and determine what they thought the three most important ways to help the Earth were. If they wanted to talk this over with someone at their table they could. I told them to write those at the top of the three columns. I gave them about 5-7 minutes to do this.
After they determined what they thought the three most important ways to save the Earth were I said, "Now I want you to write some details under each column. Take what you've learned from this whole unit - not just this text - and tell me the details of why each of your 3 ways are important. Again, you may go back into the text if you need to and you can work with someone at your table if you need to." I gave them a good 15 minutes to do this.
I passed out the flow maps to my students. I pulled up my example of my flow map on my Smartboard lesson. Since we had so much experience with working with tree maps and flow maps, I didn't have to model a great deal because they knew the process of how to write a story on the flow map by using their ideas from the tree map because of all of our animal nonfiction writing.
The only thing that really changed is our beginning sentences because this was opinion writing. I walked them through the first introduction box. I said, "What did we write at the top of our tree map? Yes - how to save the Earth. Who can turn that into a sentence?" We brainstormed some ideas, and then I let them all write that first sentence in their own way in their introduction box. Then I said, "Now we're writing an opinion. What is some of the vocabulary we've learned that shows we are writing an opinion?" My students told me some ways were to say, "I think ...," "I feel ...," "I believe ...," and "In my opinion ..." I said, "How many ways did we say were important? That's right - 3. Who can tell me a sentence that uses those stems and tells about 3 important ways?" We brainstormed as a class so everyone could hear others ideas. Then I let them write that 2nd sentence in the introduction box in their own way.
Once we were done with our introduction, I gave the students a real quick overview. I said, "Boys and girls, we have done this so many times with all our animal stories. Nothing has changed. You know how to take your ideas from the tree map and use them to write your story on your flow map. Remember you, take the idea from the top of the column and put that in the large box and you take the details from the bottom of the column and but those in your elaboration boxes. So let's get started." I gave the students a good 25 minutes to write their opinion pieces on their flow maps.
You can see how I circulated around the room helping students if needed and how my students were writing their stories in the video: Opinion Writing Using Our Flow Map.mp4.
I've given you a video that shows a great strategy for helping your students to copy the flow map correctly onto their writing paper. Check it out here: Strategies for Transfering From the Flow Map to Journal Paper.mp4. It will save you frustration if you use this strategy!
After we numbered our boxes, I gave journal paper to my students and had them copy their stories onto their journal paper. When they were done with their written part I had them make an illustration. You can see this portion of the lesson here: Writing Our Stories.mp4.
Since we had finished this lesson on the very last day of school, I decided to use the time to share our writing together as a class. This was such a time to celebrate what we've learned throughout the year and how much we've grown. We came together as a class on the carpet, and I allowed my students to share their writing with their class if they wished. We took our time with our closure, since it was the very last day of school. I just soaked these last moments in, reveling in how far these kiddos have come this year. It was a bittersweet moment.